A narrative of Captivity

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Compare and contrast the narratives of Mary Rowlandson and Olaudah Equiano, focusing on their experiences and their reactions to their captivity.

from A Narrative of Captivity (40- ) by Mary Rowlandson and from The Interesting narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (57- ) by Olaudah Equiano

A Narrative of Captivity (40- ) by Mary Rowlandson

The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (57- ) by Olaudah Equiano

Purpose of narrative

“She did not want merely to record her horrifying experience; she wished to demonstrate how it revealed God’s purpose” (“Mary Rowlandson” 38).

Considered first great African American autobiography; raised awareness about slavery and promoted emancipation; he was an active abolitionist (“Olaudah Equiano” 56)


written after the events but within two years of her ransom (as she died two years after gaining freedom); highly popular in 17th century England who “were eager for lurid tales of native inhabitants” (“Captivity Narratives” 42); “inspired a mass of imitations” (42); first person POV (limited, no perspective on events that may have provoked the Indians; “chronicles her experience as a captive of the Wampanoag during King Philip’sWar in 1675” (TM 40)

written after the events occurred; published in 1789 in England; widely read in America as well as “abroad” (56);

How captured

in a raid by Native Americans on settlers; during wars between settlers and Native Americans

by African slave traders



age 11

Why captured

for ransom money or bartering for food and needed supplies (“Mary Rowlandson” 38)

slave trade; for sugar plantations in West Indies

Treatment by captors

little food, separated from family, warned there would be negative results if her sick child were discovered; has been sold to a series of masters as a wife; eventually given more food, a Bible; allowed to see her daughter and son; is allowed to earn money; women seem to be talking to her—overall treatment seems to be improving; eventually freed after ransom paid (“Mary Rowlandson” 38)

not bad by first captor and series of men involved in slave trade; sold to a family who treated him with respect and even allowed him to eat before their son (because the son was younger); conditions on the ship are bad; on the ship forced to eat, beaten if did not eat; other captors were scourged severely; sold again in Barbados, West Indies —overall the treatment seems to be deteriorating

Attitudes toward captors

thinks they are mistreating her by not giving her food; eventually finds the Indians didn’t have food either; seems to be being acculturated into the community

shocked that would be captured; neutral toward first owners (captors), felt family respected him; fearful of men on ship (even thinking they might eat him); more uncertainty about future in America

How freed

ransom paid

bought freedom in 1766 after 10 years as slave

Religion depicted

numerous allusions to Bible; treatment by captors is seen as punishment or reward from God (like others); find specific examples of these;

ends with chastisement of Christians who should follow Golden Rule (65)

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